Something For The Weekend (367)
Oh what joy to see Villa not only win a game for a change but to do it in such fine style that the game got top billing on Match of The Day.
It was a result which offered a little bit of consolation for two rather disappointing home performances since the turn of the year, and silences any talk of relegation for the time being.
I was convinced that Villa just had too much fire-power for Wolves but it was still a bit of a rollercoaster ride. The first shock came when I saw the team sheet and counted five attacking players in the line-up, I began to wonder whether the real Alex McLeish had been abducted and had been replaced by a replicant from planet Keegan.
Having checked for news of strange craft hovering over Witton and found none, I concluded that McLeish had decided that a win was so important, that it was a matter of shit or bust and he'd released his attack-minded inner-demon.
After Bent had opened the scoring on eleven minutes, I was waiting for the floodgates to open for Villa, but within twenty minutes, I was head-in-hands and Wolves were in front. Thirty minutes of some serious sulking from me later and Robbie Keane equalised and I got a little wobble in my throat. Another thirty minutes after that and Robbie's winner had me putting my wildman of the woods face on, accompanied by my usual triumphal arm actions, which tend to make me look like I am punching an invisible hobbit.
The resultant unfamiliar flow of victory hormones kept me smiling all night and well into the working week.
Keane as a razor!
There was little doubt that the quality of Robbie Keane's goals definitely deserved a chorus from the midnight choir, and it seems a very long time since we saw such sensational shooting. Shooting from distance is not usually wise for Villa because too often Villa's present crop are likely to hit the corner-flag, when they show such ambition.
Only the other day, someone asked me what was keeping Emile Heskey out of the team and I told them it was his Achilles-heel. 'What's his Achilles-heel?', they asked; and I said, 'Heading, shooting and passing'.
The thing you couldn't help noticing about Robbie Keane was how cleanly he strikes the ball, and it was notable that there was none of that wobble and swerve, which is usually blamed on the modern ball, when Robbie hit it; as straight as an arrow and as fast as a bullet.
When I was punching that hobbit in my victory celebrations, I wasn't too worried about how Wolves fans might be feeling but on reflection, I did wonder whether Villa had been lucky. I don't mean the penalty because being caught in possession is not bad luck. And, I didn't mean the sending-off because kicking an opponent in the ribs, is normally not seen as misfortune. But, the loss of the influential Frimpong after he got injured and Villa's enforced tactical change when Gabby went off puking, seemed to change the game in Villa's favour.
The question is whether McLeish bringing on Warnock, who ended Kightly's afternoon of fun and moving Clark into midfield, was serendipitous, or was it the result of McLeish's deep tactical analysis?
It hardly matters.
The main hope of the few Villa stalwarts I have consulted on the matter, is that Robbie Keane's arrival and fine demonstration of his prowess, can lift the whole squad by giving them that little bit of extra belief which so often seems to be lacking. Keano looks to be the perfect player for this, as his loan status means he should avoid getting involved in any internal politics, while he brings the number of Irish players up to six (Dunne, Ireland, Clark, Given, Stevens and Keane) so the craic in the dressing-room is bound to be fierce.
Erin go bragh!
The rest of the football week continued pleasantly as we got to see Cardiff take on Crystal Palace in the second leg of the semi-final of the League Cup, with Peter Whittingham providing some substantial Villa interest.
It was a good game to take a close look at the Championship's football product, as two sides of contrasting styles laid out their stalls. As might be expected the main substance of the game was not altogether that different from the mid to lower reaches of the Premiership but there definitely seemed a lack of quality when it came to the final ball and in finishing, and this became more apparent when the two teams started to bring on the substitutes, as the game went into extra-time.
Much to my delight, Peter Whittingham was tremendous, as he produced a wonderful exhibition of passing and set-pieces. He certainly seems to be enjoying his career at Cardiff and it is no wonder that his name appears so often in rumours about him moving to a Premiership club. Crystal Palace had a player who caught the eye too, in Wilfred Zaha (19), who has fantastic pace and athleticism but is as yet a bit of a rough diamond, who looks to have bags of potential, given the right coaching.
It was a perfect night for a neutral and even though I wanted Cardiff to win because of the Villa connection, I felt really disappointed for the Crystal Palace lads, when the Welsh club won the tie on penalties.
What was really interesting for me was the fact that Cardiff play the same sort of passing-game which their fiercest rivals Swansea play, and I was wondering whether despite our best hopes, the influence of a club's rivals cannot be under-estimated. It seems that no one in south Wales wishes to be accused of playing ugly football.
I was doing much muttering about the fine record of Everton the other week, and I began to wondered whether the fierce rivals with their scouse neighbours, had prevented either club from becoming complacent.
The unavoidable conclusion was that the historical failure of Birmingham City and even their recent decline, had led to a complacent lack of ambition at Villa, in that they were always guaranteed to be the top brand because there was no real competition. Simply put, would the present retrenchment have been less likely, if Birmingham were still in the Premiership and were doing better than the Villa brand?
Just a thought.
Anyway, Villa travel to Arsenal this Sunday as they attempt to make their way into the last 16 of the FA Cup. There is little doubt that Villa are capable of beating the Gunners on present form, and what with Wenger's lack of a left or right-back, Villa's pacy wide-men would suggest Villa are equipped to get a result.
If Robbie Keane can do for Villa, what Robin van Persie did for Arsenal, then Villa optimism will be ready for take-off.
Oh Robbie boy, the Holte, the Holte, is calling!
Keep the faith!